Reg Hickey (27 March 1906 – 13 December 1973) was a player, and later coach, of the Geelong Football Club. Between 1926 and 1959 he led the club to three premierships and participated as a player in a fourth. As a strong, fast and intelligent player with exquisite footskills, Hickey donned the Geelong hoops for 245 games in a career spanning fifteen years, including a part in two premierships, two club best-and-fairest awards and nine seasons as club captain. Hickey's involvement with the club after his playing career did not stop there, with Hickey establishing a reputation as a hard but equally fair coach, helping build the team into a powerhouse during the early 1950s.
As a coach, Hickey led the club in 304 matches, including 91 as playing coach, all the while establishing a 60% winning record. Such is his place in Geelong history that the club currently has its Eastern Stand at its home ground, Skilled Stadium, named after him, as well as naming the prestigious R.J. Hickey Award after him, given annually by the club to an individual selected for his outstanding service to Australian rules football.
Geelong recruited Hickey for the start of the 1926 season, with Hickey himself making a name as a tough defender, renowned for his dashing runs out of the defensive half.
Hickey was named captain-coach in 1932, but relinquished the coaching position to Arthur Coghlan the following season, though he continued in his role as captain of the club. Come 1936, however, Hickey again undertook the joint role of captain-coach, this time holding on to both positions until his retirement in 1940. By then he was the games record-holder for the club, and held that record until Bill Goggin took over in 1971.
Hickey's finest moment as captain-coach came in the 1937 Grand Final against Collingwood. Until the three quarter time break, the contest was relatively even between both sides, neither being able to get ahead by more than a few points. In an effort to break the deadlock, Hickey made wholesale positional changes – a coaching move almost unheard of in those days. Nevertheless, the tactic worked, with Geelong coming out comfortable winners.
Hickey came 2nd in the Brownlow Medal count in 1936 and 3rd in 1931.
Due to travel restrictions and an exodus of players to war service in the Second World War, Geelong were unable to field a side for the 1942 and 1943 seasons. Players transferred to other clubs, but not all returned when Geelong rejoined the competition for the 1944 season, and the club was left with the unenviable task of rebuilding: the club finished close to or on the bottom of the ladder for the rest of the 1940s, claiming the wooden spoon in 1944 with a 1-17 record, and narrowly avoiding the 1945 wooden spoon on percentage.
Hickey was appointed coach for the third time in 1949, with immediate success. Though the club failed to make the finals, they showed marked improvement.
Hickey had a policy of fast, direct play, relentlessly drilling his players to ensure they made every possession count. 1950 saw Geelong make the finals for the first time in ten years. For the next two and a half years, Geelong was the strongest side in the competition, winning two consecutive flags, and establishing a VFL/AFL record of 23 wins (unbeaten streak of 26)in a row during 1952 and 1953. It wasn't until the end of 1953 that Collingwood, with the use of ugly and restrictive football, were able to defeat on Hickey's side. The Cats lost the Grand Final and failed to seriously challenge for the flag again for the rest of Hickey's reign. He retired from coaching at the end of the 1959 season, after 35 years of service to the Geelong Football Club.
In 2001, Reg Hickey was selected as the captain, coach, and centre half back of Geelong's official 'Team of the Century', a testament to his outstanding leadership skills and football talent. Likewise, his place in football was concreted with his naming on the interchange bench in the Victorian Team of the 20th Century, some 50 years after his own playing retirement, and his status as an Australian Football Hall of Fame member.
Hickey was the nephew of noted football player and administrator Con Hickey, and the grandfather of former Port Adelaide coach and captain Matthew Primus.